Energy system – do you know them or train them

The Energy Pathways ~ Luke Palmisano

The end of the world is nigh!  Cos’ the Mayans said so.  So, as a way of saying goodbye, we’re going to talk about… energy pathways.  Whatever, don’t judge me.  I wrote this post before I realized it was the last post I would ever write.  As opposed to waxing poetic about the end of the world and re-writing the post, I’ll just add some really funny commentary before the post begins.  Like, really funny.  Are you laughing?  Thought so.

From what I’ve learned, there are three basic energy pathways that the body uses: the oxidative, the glycolytic, and the phospho-creatine.  All have to do with measures of intensity, and duration of exercise.  

Oxidative: You are currently in the oxidative pathway (is your mind blown?).  The oxidative pathway uses about 40% of your potential power.  How long can you sustain 40% intensity performing an activity?  I do not know.  Try going for a brisk walk.  If you’re not completely bored after three hours, go three more hours.  You’ll still be in the oxidative pathway.  

Glycolyitc (Lactate): This uses about 70% of your max power output. It lasts about 1-2 minutes.  This pathway requires working in the anaerobic realm.  Try running a 400m dash as fast as you can.  You may notice at the end of your run that you would rather not repeat that exercise.  Why?  Because you were using Oxygen faster than you could replenish it. By the Laws of Nature, I hereby decree to you that that form of exercise is unsustainable.  Because, if you don’t have Oxygen, you are dead (I should make that into a bumper sticker).  Herein lies the beauty of working within the glycolytic pathway: it is intense, and it hurts.  Imagine reaching the limits of that pathway, being completely out of breath, looking up at a clock, and realizing you have 18 minutes left to go in your workout! Sounds like a CrossFit workout, yes?  The intensity of a CrossFit workout forces you to dip in and out of that pathway.  It hurts.  But it also gets you the results you are looking for.

Phospo-creatine: This produces 100% of your max power.  How long does this pathway last?  About ten seconds.  An example would be your one-rep-max deadlift. The phospho-creatine pathway is apparently the most readily available pathway the body uses to process ATP.  Whereas the body does not store ATP in large quantities, it does allow large amounts of phospo-creatine to exist.  We probably recognize the word “creatine”. The body absorbs this substance readily and supplies it to the muscles, which explains why creatine supplements have become so popular in recent years.  It helps the body produce more energy, more plentifully.  

So why do we care?  Well, consider an athlete who wants to reach his absolute potential in the clean and jerk.  He is primarily practicing in the phospho-creatine pathway.  Do you think running 400 meter sprints would help him in his endeavors?  Not likely.  As soon as he introduces other pathways to his body, he compromises his ability to work within the one he needs.  However, is that our goal?  Naw bro.  It’s not.  We want compromise!  We want to increase our ability within all three.  We understand we will never be able to back squat 900 pounds, while running a four minute mile (Unless you are on a Jean-Claude Van Damme level of awesomeness.  Which you very well could be.).  But we will, with enough practice, become proficient within all three pathways. 

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